Sunday, October 30, 2005

This and That

Three large bags of clothes made it into the trash yesterday, thus freeing up some valuable closet and storage space. I thought about donating them to charity, but they were far too worn and probably wouldn’t be accepted. Another two bags of this and that also went away (old magazines, sundry papers, etc). Books I cannot throw out, so I’m taking a box of them to work tomorrow for anyone so inclined to give them a home. So some progress was made yesterday, but I still have a long way to go. Having a coffee now and will probably get back to the sorting once I finish.

Rearranging the bedroom is going to be the project for this afternoon/evening as is pricing online some living room furniture. Outfitting the living room is way overdue. I think I’ve found a home from my Ancient Futon so that will clear the way for the procurement of a few matching pieces. I’m certainly not going to buy anything expensive. I have cats, after all, and whatever I buy they’ll most likely just tear up in time. Inexpensive and moderately respectable are the main buying points. Ikea, anyone?

And, of course, before and after pictures will be taken. Whether I post them or not depends on the degree I’m able to transform the living room from a cold, heartless, undecorated room to something passably livable, warm, and inviting. Given my complete lack of skill in this area, the room upon becoming furnished will probably be colder and more heartless. My friends will have to help with this. Otherwise, I will never hear the end of it.

What might be interesting is to turn the living room project into a “community/group effort” of sorts for those out there who relish such endeavors. I could post images of the current layout, specs of the room, and the look I’m considering and get feedback/recommendations from whomever happens by the blog.

Hmmm. May have to give this some thought.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Afternoon Update


Maybe a two hour nap wasn’t on the agenda, but it was nice nonetheless. Since crawling out of the warm bed just a short while ago, I’ve ambled over to Starbucks, talked briefly to various people whiling away their afternoon over coffee, tea, and pastries, and returned with my own Cup of Life. Once I become saturated in caffeine, I’ll begin some of the cleaning/organizing/sorting chores on today’s agenda.

Never made it out to Barnes and Noble, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or the Asian market this morning. There’s always tonight or tomorrow; no hurry, really. I did, however, make the much needed grocery run to Harris Teeter. I walked instead of drove, which limited the number of things I could buy. It’s only four or five blocks, but that’s a long way to carry armloads of bags. So I just procured what I needed for the weekend plus a few additional odds and ends.

I can feel the beginnings of a truly wonderful caffeine buzz. This is a good sign as I’ll become a blur of jittery activity for at least a few hours. So much can be accomplished with proper caffeination. Certainly this is a sign of addiction, but there are worse vices.

Off to be productive.

The Agenda

For only the second time since it has turned cold, the boiler in the apartment building kicked in early this morning and the old steam radiators are hissing and clattering away. It’s a good sound, particularly when you’re wrapped up under the blankets trying to stay warm. I suspect the thermostat down in the basement (the only such temp regulatory device for the entire building) is set too low, perhaps in an effort to save on heating costs. So for only the second time in the last week or so it’s comfortable in the apartment and I don’t have to walk around in two pairs of socks and layered clothing to keep warm.

Other than having emergency pager duty, it’s going to be a free day. I want to be productive, though; to take care of a number of activities in which I’ve fallen behind or have wanted to do for a while now, but just haven’t had the time (or have simply been too lazy). Among the things on today’s agenda:

1. Grocery shopping. This is sorely needed as the kitchen is practically void of food. Even as creative as I try to be in the kitchen, I simply can’t do much with a bag of coffee beans, salt, and pasta. So today I’ll be making runs to the Asian market and the local grocery store. I made the list this morning and this task will be today’s priority.

2. Cleaning. The bedroom need a good cleaning and the study need organizing.

3. Barnes and Noble. For a change I’m in the mood to read a novel. Not sure what, exactly. I’ll just browse the shelves until something strikes my fancy.

4. Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Need to replace the baking dish that I dropped last Sunday as well as pick up a few kitchen essentials. Should make a list for this shopping trip to and STICK TO IT. It’s Bed, Bath, and Beyond, after all. I can spend far too much in there if I am not mindful.

5. Finish sorting through old clothes. This ties in with (2), but not quite so I will assign it it’s own number. I need to make a little more room in the closet before buying some new things.

So I guess we’ll see just how many of these things I can get done today.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Keeping Up Apperances

It has been a long week at the office and I’m looking forward to the weekend. Mostly. This is my duty week with the emergency pager which puts a damper on activities (e.g., no research trips and more distressing: very limited alcohol consumption), but that’s ok. I need a weekend just to putter around the apartment or do some shopping.

I’ll probably make a run to the Asian market out in Virginia Beach in preparation for next week’s annual office fall cookout. I’ll be making chicken or pork satay and/or lap kai (savory chopped chicken salad) and need to get some essential ingredients that are virtually impossible to procure from a regular market. My contribution to the cookout should prove interesting given that many of my staff are steak, potatoes, and apple pie sort of people whose idea of international cuisine consists of French fries or possibly even Canadian bacon. Hopefully my skills at preparing Thai cuisine are polished sufficiently to provide passable renditions of these dishes. But if not, who’s going to notice anyway? It will be a unique offering either way.

Clothes shopping may also be on the agenda this weekend. Over the last few evenings I’ve been hauling fall and winter things out of storage and it’s all too big now. Causal “lounge around the apartment” things are still passable given their limited function, but dress shirts and pants..well, they have to go. The shirts were a little large last year, but now they’re huge. On a windy day they would billow like sails. Can’t have that. The same problem (if it can be called that) exists with pants. Way too big now. I look like an ill-clad hobo when I put on last year’s clothes. Hardly respectable. Ah well. The consequences of successful dieting.

But I wouldn’t necessarily call the process of the last year “dieting.,” per se. It’s more along the lines of simple behaviour modifications rather than any real attempt at dieting. The word “diet” has so many negative connotations and I don’t like using it. I prefer to use the more accurate phrases “changes in behavior,” which may or may not constitute dieting depending on ones definition of the dreaded “d” word. I’ve been much more mindful of what I eat, when I eat (very few late dinners and no snacking), moderate alcohol consumption, and small adjustments such as walking to the grocery store or bank instead of driving. I certainly don’t starve myself and do indulge in the late meal or the unneeded margarita or beer every now and again. But the key is moderation. Taken together, these small changes have made a real difference and various people have certainly noticed and their favorable comments are a source of inspiration. At least partially. Unfortunately, all too frequently someone says something like “Wow. You’ve really lost weight” followed by “Have you been sick?” The latter irks me to no end. The implication is one can’t simply improve themselves on their own; there has to some underlying cause.

I still have about ten or so pound more to go before I reach the goal of once again being officially lean and lanky. Lanky really isn’t all that hard to do as I’m six foot two. Lean..well, I’m still working on that. Once I reach my goal, I’ll start the next step and that is to work on adding some muscle. This will likely mean joining a gym, and going to the gym is something I utterly detest. The last time I joined a gym, I think I went there no more than 20 times over the course of my two year membership. This is pathetic of course, but in my defense, the gym was dark and creepy, hardly an environment that inspires physical activity (unless fleeing the place counts). Rejoining a gym (and actually going there regularly) will be exactly like the whole behavior modification (“diet”) thing. It’s all a matter of proper focus. The hardest part is deciding to make some changes and starting down that path.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dinner Is Served....

A mantid having its own dinner party at the condo last Sunday..... obviously dinner guests were also on the menu...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday PM

The dinner party last night was a success which is somewhat more significant considering that I tried out a new entrée recipe. I never like using untested recipes for social events as you really aren’t quite sure how things will actually turn out. But I took a chance and it paid off. Cooking for seven was a bit of work, but I nonetheless enjoy such endeavors. I’ll take a weekend off from the dinner events then start thinking about something for the week following.

A steady cold, wind-blown rain has fallen since late this morning. Perfect night to curl up under a blanket and read. Off to do just that.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Photo Op

It was a good afternoon at the ecological preserve. As usual, it was deserted save for me. I was out there about four hours, only one of which was devoted to research. The rest of the time was spent wandering here and there with the digital camera, taking pictures of this and that. I’m testing out the capabilities of the digital camera I have at work and I’ve almost decided to buy the same model for my own personal use. Subject matter today ranged from open landscape shots to specific images (mushrooms, lichen, plants, etc) to micro-photography (ants). The camera’s capabilities with the latter aren’t all that wonderful (perhaps it‘s partial user ineptitude as well), but how often am I going to be using micro-photography anyway? Otherwise, the camera performed exceptionally well with everything else.

Below is an image I took today that seems interesting on some level. I think I’ll call it “Same, but different.”

Saturday Morning

Will be heading out of here in a bit for one of the last forays of the research season. According to the schedule, I have one more weekend to go, which is supposed to be next weekend. Unfortunately, I have the emergency pager next week so the concluding research trip will be delayed one week. It’s cloudy, cool, and a bit foggy this morning which should make for an interesting setting at the ecological preserve with fog shrouding the pine barrens and muffling the snapping of branches and growls and the crashing of Balrogs passing nearby.

Anyway… to get busy.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday PM

Oddly bored and restless this evening. Usually a book or some music is a sufficient occupation to pass the hours until bedtime, but they’re just not doing it for me tonight. Obviously not in the “leave me the hell alone” hermit mood that typically comes at the end of a long workweek. But I’m not necessarily in the mood to socialize either. I know what you’re thinking: I just need more caffeine. Possibly this is true, but I’m on my second coffee of the evening.

I haven’t done much reading lately, at least not since the bout with cluster headaches back in early September. At least I think it was early September; the weeks are going by so fast that I’ve quite lost track. I’ll read a few pages here and there, usually before bed, but I haven’t engaged in any of those all day “read-a-thons” that I enjoy. I still have “Guns, Germs, and Steel” that I bought back in early August that I’ve barely started (and I was hoping to be finished with it by the start of Sept) so that’s going to be the project over the next few weeks.

One recently acquired book that I’m rather enjoying it Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Finding Our True Home,” which is Thay’s translation of and commentary on the Amitabha Sutra. A rather insightful work that I’ll post on in greater detail at a later date. Very thought provoking.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Food Fight!

Now I remember why I’ve long avoided fast food like the plague. Due to time constraints and against my better judgment, I grabbed lunch from a fast food place (and I will not mention that it was Hardees) on the way back to the office early this afternoon. It was typical fast food fare (greasy burger and cold fries) and left me feeling queasy and listless. Ugh. No more fast food for at least another year or longer if I bear today’s lesson in mind as my body is begging I should.

Something else about today’s visit will keep me out of fast food places: behaviour of the staff. Two employees were in a rather heated argument about who had duty at the drive-up window. The staffer at the window obviously thought she had been stuck there beyond her allotted shift and her replacement was obviously in no hurry to take over. At one point, they were all but yelling in each other’s faces and brandished their weapons: one had the French fry scoop and the other, a drive-up customer’s drink. Before the argument became an exchange of salt, fries, ice, and soda, the manager temporarily suspended her search for a lost roll of dimes to break things up. A pity, really as a fast food fight would have added entertainment value to the long wait for my food.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Weekend in Review

Hopefully this cup of Starbucks coffee (my third of the day!) succeeds in waking me up; otherwise, I’ll be totally useless this evening. Of course the two beers I had whilst having dinner with a coworker a short while ago have done nothing to help the productivity level, but after the busy weekend, I deserved alcoholic refreshments.

So to summarize the weekend:

1.) The research Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning went well and didn’t take as long as in months past due to the lateness of the season. Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) one insect group on which I’m conducting a taxonomic study was collected in relative abundance, so I spend more time at the microscope this week than in sessions past taking care of various curational procedures (e.g, pinning, labeling, specimens, etc).

2.). A friend and I went to a relatively upscale, trendy Latin American restaurant about four blocks from the apartment called Luna Maya. Despite the fact that it’s been there about five year, this was my first visit and certainly won’t be my last. The food was first-rate and the ambiance was….well…orange. Minimalist décor save for a few mirrors and lamps against a backdrop of orange walls all around. In the subdued lighting the color actually worked well (e.g., I didn’t once feel I was dining inside a pumpkin). Certainly will be back.

3.) I attended (and did the cooking for) a casual dinner part at a friend’s condo Sunday evening. Prepared basic Italian cuisine (homemade soup, spaghetti , etc) and it turned out well…so well in fact, that we’re having another dinner party there next Sunday with French cuisine featured this time around. It’s a little more involved and I’ve started putting together the menu. Will have dust off my pastry baking skills this week in preparation for the cook-a-thon next weekend.

All in all, a very good weekend. Very busy and productive and most importantly a lot of fun.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Finally the Sun

I am in a very good mood this morning, perhaps because the sun is FINALLY out, or perhaps it’s because that wonderful fall feeling is in the air. The latter is difficult to describe beyond a feeling of change, a feeling of excitement and anticipation of new things to come.

The next few weeks are going to be a lot of fun. The days will progressively get shorter and cooler, the nights crisp and clear, and the research season will draw to a close leaving weekends free for road trips or just lounging about on warm afternoon with a book over at the coffee shop. Summer clothes will be packed away and the fall/winter wardrobe hauled out of storage. This year most of the cool weather wardrobe will go away as what I wore last year no longer fits and needs to be replaced with smaller sizes and nicer styles.

Anyway…I’m off to gather the field equipment and think about heading out of here. Should be a good, quick afternoon of research.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday Evening

It’s been cloudy, rainy and/or drizzly and cool for over a week now and I think we’ve had enough of this gloom for a while as it is conducive for little else beyond naps, hot cups of coffee, warm blankets and reading. Certainly not the most productive of weeks. Tomorrow, though, is supposed to be different. Sunny with highs in the low 70s. Perfect for catching up on the research. Things should be winding down sufficiently that it won’t take up the entire weekend (though it will involve field work both tomorrow afternoon and Sunday morning).

The continual gloom took a toll on my office today. Several of the staff, including my secretary, “abandoned ship” at lunch leaving only a skeletal staffing arrangement. This was just as well since it was a Friday, which are usually slow anyway. I spent my day either puttering about in my office or preparing slide mounts of various beasties in my lab next door, none of which was truly essential, only a way to pass the time in a somewhat productive manner. Busywork can certainly be an asset from time to time.

So it’s late Friday afternoon and I wonder what I’m going to do with the evening. No real plans, though a friend mentioned having a “movie night” over at his place. May have to make an appearance depending on my energy level and movie selection. Energy level shouldn’t be a problem as I’ve just finished off a cup of coffee strong enough to ward off any thought of or desire for nap time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Perils of Beach Driving.......

I wonder where the rest of it is????

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Beachcomber

The road this morning took me east to the oceanfront. I suppose southeast is the more correct orientation as I avoided the main tourist beaches and headed to the remote beaches south of Sandbridge near the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge in southern Virginia Beach. It's a much longer route down narrow, winding roads, but it's always wothwhile as fewer people care to venture this far off the main path.

The beach was all but deserted this morning. It was cloudy and cool with mists and fog in the air, certainly not optimal weather for most beachgoers. A strong northeast wind roused a continually growling surf and the beach was littered with marine vegetation left by the churning, crashing waves. I walked for miles this morning past the occasional shore bird pecking about in the vegetation and small sand crabs scurrying here and there, avoiding the overwash of waves, the gaze of hungry shore birds, and my steps. I don't know honestly how far I walked before retracing my steps back to the access point. It may have been a mile. It may have been two miles. No matter, really. Time and distance meant little on a day like this.

Sunday AM

The rain has mostly stopped, at least for now. It's still cool, very cloudy, and misting but that's an improvement from the torrential rain of yesterday. I could actuallly cross the street to Starbucks this morning without either getting drenched or spending an hour looking for an umbrella that I may or may not have somewhere in the apartment. I didn't even make it over there yesterday, which was noted by staff this morning ("Where were you yesterday?? Hmmmmm???"). Ugh.

Yesterday was far too lazy of a day and I feel guilty for the singular lack of productivity. Today will be different, though as of yet there's nothing on the agenda. Perhaps I'll do some cleaning and laundry, both of which I lacked the fortitude to accomplish in the lazy blur that was yesterday. I plan on doing some cooking tonight. No reicpe, no specific plan; I am going to see just how creative I can get with a few basic ingredients. This is when cooking gets fun.

I'm feeling restless today. Once the morning routine is complete, I think what I'll do is grab the digital camera, hop in the Jeep, and just go. No destination, no goal. Just go wherever the road leads.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Image Test

Testing Blogger's new image uploading feature ('s not necessarily new, only new to me. I believe it's been around a few months). These are my cats, annoyingly sweet and sometimes just annoying. But that's what they're supposed to be. They're cats, after all.

Lazy Day

Due to the heavy rain that has continued to fall since the early morning, my advisor and I decided to cancel the research fieldwork, thereby giving me a free weekend. This welcome development will allow for a cherished lazy weekend ahead with little to do other than some cleaning and other assorted projects around the apartment. If I should choose to do so. If not, no matter. It's going to be my weekend and I'm going to spend it however I see fit, even if it means doing absolutely nothing.

A second pot of coffee is brewing and I'm feeling much better now that I've had lunch. I awoke this morning with a bit of a hangover due to perhaps one margarita too many last night whilst out having dinner and drinks with my sister and her fiance. Not a serious hangover, mind you; simply a minor headache and a somewhat groggy feeling, both of which began to dissipate with water and coffee rehydration therapy. It's quite remarkable just how much my alcohol tolerance has dropped this year. I feel like such an amateur.

My gosh, the rainfall is abosolutely intense right now. And it's so very dark out. The street lights on Colley Ave (the main drag) are on and there's not a pedestrain to be seen. I don't think we've had such rain since Hurricane Isabel blew through here in September of 2003. It was certainly a wise decision to cancel the fieldwork this weekend. The ecological preserve is almost certainly by now a lake. Of course having a Jeep makes this but a minor detail. :-)

The in-country ininerary for Honduras is coming along well. I found out yesterday that my local contact is setting up a side trip into Guatemala which will last anywhere from one to three days depending on what else is planned. I'm excited about this as we'll venture futher into the heart of Mayan country. Next up is organizing a few days in La Mosquitia, the vast expanse of unpopulated, rarely-explored rainforests in easter Honduras. I hope there will be time to fit this trip in, but if not, I can always head back down there in April. to read and relax with a coffee.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Calm Before the Storm

Cloudy mild, and continued very humid this evening. Remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy will be overspreading the area later on this evening bringing rain, rain, and more rain. And then we may even get a little rain on top of that. From the looks of the radar, the wet weather should be rolling in over the next few hours. Looking foward to a few rainy, lazy days.

I'm almost tempted to go back to the office tonight to work on a couple ongoing projects in the lab. The key words here is "almost" and I'm not quite inspired enough to head back to the office; I spend too much time there anyway. But it's so different there at nights and on weekends when no one else is around. No phones, no employees, just the task at hand and wonderful, wonderful silence. Perhaps I'll just go in early tomorrow and get some things done before staff starts to arrive.

Earlier this year I painted my office (ok..I didn't actually do any painting, I had others do it) and generally gave it a very personalized makeover including assorted accents acquired during my time in South America and Thailand. Despite the criticism that it looks like a National Geographic episode, the office turned out well and I've been enjoying the fruits of, wait...other's labor since. The next project will be converting the empty office next to mine into my personal laboratory. I'm already using it in this capacity, though infomally. A long lab table, compound and dissecting microscopes, and trays of assorted microtools and related equipment. It's functional, but it can be so much more than what it presently is. We do have a main lab complete with all the bells and whistles, but it's general use and given the time and space-consuming nature of my projects, a more secure workspace is needed. many possibilities.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

In for the Evening

After rushing home from work to shower and feed the cats, I headed off to class and just now have returned home. It's a good feeling to have the day over and I plan on doing very little tonight other than finish off the cup of coffee I bought when I got home. Some friends were idling about over at Starbucks and despite the invitation to join in on the conversation, I politely declined and retreated upstairs to the apartment. Not trying to be overly anti-social; it was just a long day and I need the solitude.

Off to putter about the apartment.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Thrilling Afternoon

A long, but VERY productive day at the ecological preserve. In a post last night I mentioned a unique discovery made by a fellow graduate student last weekend and the hope that we would be able to replicate the finding today. Not only did we replicate the discovery, we replicated it FIVE times. We were almost euphoric from the excitment of scientific discovery and wrapped things up only reluctantly as the sun dipped below the western horizon. There are no paths where we were working and trying to find our way out of the inpenetrable thickets in the dark would have been difficult if not outright treacherous. We now have sufficient data for publication, though I want to accumulate a little more over the next few weeks before we being the writing process. The more comprehensive we can make the article, the greater the chances of publication in a worthwhile scientific journal.

It's a pity that the discovery came at the end of the research season. Several good reserach questions have arisen from the finding, but we'll have to wait until the next field season to conduct the experiments. But on the bright side, it is something to think about and prepare for during the offseason.

December Destination

Here's a link to Copan Ruinas, Honduras website where I'll be visiting in December. The pages on ecotourism are quite interesting and have a lot of information that my travel book glosses over. Waterfalls, caves, hiking.....ahhh....I foresee much excitement on this trip.